FHSU professor, classes map school safety plan

Project SafeNet, a joint endeavor between Fort Hays State University and USD 489, will make Hays High School and other schools in the district safer places for students.

Dr. Tom Schafer, assistant professor of geosciences at FHSU, presented the project during the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools National Conference from Aug. 16-19 in Washington, DC. The conference provided school districts, law enforcement and homeland security officials from around the country with information and ideas about projects that can be funded by Emergency Response and Crisis Management Grants.

Schafer and members of his Advanced Cartography classes from the past three semesters created a sample digital map of HHS consisting of layers of information about the building and the community. Layers include the floor plan of the building and show evacuation routes, the location of utility shutoffs, tornado shelters, flood plains in the area and other information that would be useful to school administrators and emergency response teams during emergency situations.

By the end of the semester, the team working on Project SafeNet hopes to complete phase 1 of the project and present the completed map to the USD 489 school board. All the other schools in the district will follow if the project meets the board's approval.

Phase 2 of the project entails writing a step-by-step manual to be posted to the Internet for schools around the world to use as a roadmap to create their own safety plans. These instructions will make it easier and less expensive for schools to create the maps, said Schafer.

He stressed the importance of school safety on a global level.

"They have found maps of American high schools on dead terrorists in Iraq," Schafer said. "It's safe to say they weren't going to the prom."

Schafer and his students are excited about the project. "The state of Kansas and the community of Hays have given us a lot. We're grateful for the chance to give something back," he said. "We're very proud to be working on it."

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